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Tuesday, November 28th 2006

14:37

Innovation

A couple of weeks back I was with a group that gets together quarterly to discuss business metrics and innovation issues. Our region has received one of the 13 US Department of Labor WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) initiative grants and we talked with some of the people involved. A lot of what our region is going to focus on involves encouraging innovation: how do you generate ideas, how do you select from those ideas, how do you pilot prototypes, and how can you fund the startups.

In the broad sense this involves contributions from Workforce, Economics, and Education sectors. If you are interested in more detail on the innovation strategy, you can go to John Cleveland's paper "A Framework for Manufacturing Innovation" and see the detailed plan that we are trying to follow.

Having innovative enterprises involves blending the two key areas of Workforce and Education together. Who is better suited to lead process improvement and new product innovations than a trained, empowered employee? Your people should have strong shared values, an investment in the enterprise, and be rewarded for their innovation. See my earlier thoughts on innovation from employees for more ideas on that angle.

Education is needed to communicate a clear strategic direction to your employees so they understand the mission, vision, goals, and objectives or your enterprise. One of the companies in the group has an individual one page business plan for every employee in the organization. They use the format suggested by Verne Harnish and find it useful. It was mentioned that Jim Moran  also has a good plan, but I'm not familiar with his suggestions. The goal of either of these is to link strategy to my actions.

I asked a successful corporate implementer of shop floor metrics how he trains his operators. His response was that he follows these steps.

  1. On the first day he gives them the theory of shop floor measurements and metrics.
  2. On the second day he explains their particular software implementation and usage.
  3. Then he gives them access to a training system and lets them work on performing tasks as long as they need to to to be comfortable.

Sounded like a pretty good idea to me. So how do you educate and empower your workers?

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